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Monday, June 13, 2011

Speaking Up: When, Where, Why?

Recently, I was at lunch with a good friend of mine. Let’s call this friend Jack. Jack and I were enjoying each other’s company and conversation until he brought up a girl we both know (we’ll call her Susie). Jack went on to describe how much he did not like Susie. “She’s cold,” he said, “honestly, I have never felt an ounce of warmth from Susie,” Jack went on. Now, I may not have gotten my feathers all ruffled if it wasn’t for the fact that I happen to like Susie! I told Jack that perhaps all his built up frustration with Susie is stemming from the fact that he doesn’t know her all that well. “I, on the other hand, have spent a lot of time with Susie,” I told him. “She really is pretty awesome,” I continued. “No man,” Jack said, “she’s cold, she’s a b****.”

And there’s the rub. I was perfectly respectful of Jack’s thoughts on Susie until the final above-mentioned comment of his. Sure, I thought his opinions were unwarranted. I had concluded that Jack just didn’t know her and that he just didn’t know what he was saying. However, that all changed when he employed the use of a single word: a word so derogatory, chauvinistic, and offensive that I simply could not listen to my good friend Jack any longer. I stopped him right in his tracks. I interrupted him and told him he had crossed the line. Jack looked confused, surprised at how irritated I had become. I explained to him that that word was exceptionally hateful and that he had no idea what he was talking about. Jack laughed it off and insisted he did not mean to be hateful. I believed him. In fact, I felt bad I had gotten so hostile towards him. I even apologized!

Now, as I reflect on my scuffle with Jack I only feel worse. I should have held my ground. I should have defended Susie with more passion. I definitely should not have apologized. So I ask, readers, am I analyzing this too closely? Was I out of line in confronting my good friend and perhaps, if the discussion was prolonged, putting our relationship in jeopardy? In a more general sense, what are your thoughts on speaking up? When is it appropriate and when is it best to just let it slide?

Ryan Derry


Anonymous said...

Great post! Sometimes it is easier to call out strangers than our own friends. It sort of sounds like your friend was back tracking when you called him out and perhaps he was being a bit hateful. I don't think you're anaylzing it too closely. Imagine if that girl was at that table? Would she let that slide?

Jim Doyle said...

From my perspective, this language is never ok and not only should we call that language out, it is our responsibility as allies to call that language out. Would we allow our kids to talk like that? Do we want a community where it is ok to call our moothers, wives, daughters or friends words like that? It takes courage to call out a friend like you did. It will take collective courage to call society out.

May said...

I agree with Jim. By apologizing for "taking offense" you allowed your friend to think that you were overreacting, not that you have a problem with the word "bitch."

As someone who was first called a "bitch" by my father when I was a child, I think it should ALWAYS be called out because you never know who else that person is using the word on and how it affects them.

Laughing off name-calling and hateful words is what makes people in our culture feel comfortable using hateful language. If everyone was called out for it, every time it happened, you can be sure it would not be as prevalent as it is!

Derek said...

By letting your friend know your stance, you may have raised his level of awareness. Even if he doesn't change his language, he knows that you disapprove. This is one step toward responsibility, even if accountability isn't likely.

Michael said...

you were right on track. there is no name calling allowed from my friends. if they continue i'll find a new friend!!!